We are getting a pig! In fact, we  are getting two of them. Out neighbor, Tom, put up a beautiful pig sty in his lower pasture. It’s big enough for another couple of pigs and he offered somespace to us. Since the pigs are available, we have decided to take the plunge. It works out well for both o f us. We have Tom’s bees in our bee enclosure which has a bear proof electric fence (a necessity around here) for as long a necessary and he will keep our piggies safe and corraled. We will share feed cost and animal care and everybody wins.

This works because Bruce and Tom have a similar work ethic. Tom works all the time, just as Bruce does. Both guys are scrupulously honest and would never stiff the other on feed costs. Both have good skills and neither is a control freak. We know we might do more work when Tom and Heather’s new baby arrives in a week or two and we also know, they more than made up for it by doing the heavy work on the pig pen. We live nearly next door and we can both keep an eye on things. The work is halved and the pleasure is doubled.

In a post carbon world or during any emergency, this ability to collaborate with neighbors will be critical. This does not mean that you will always want to work with neighbor or even that you should; some people are just harder to be around than others, but it does mean that you should put community building at the top of you list of preparedness things to do.

So what to do when you have a problem with a neighbor or friend that requires you to take a stand they don’t appreciate or to confront them about a problem? I think it is nearly always best to say what you need to say in a clear manner and then move on as though the confrontation never happened. I call it “as iffing” it. Behave “as if” you expect a person to react like an adult. We have a neighbor who has not retrained their dog in spite of our leash laws. The dog was always in our yard, pooping where I needed it clean it up.  This was annoying but when he dug up my morel mushrooms, I was not a happy girl. I left a terse message on their phone, outlining the problem and asking them to call me so we could discuss it. They didn’t calll but the dog hasn’t been back. I am going to call again today. If they don’t answer, I am going to leave another message thanking them for keeping the dog at home and offering them a salad from my greenhouse. I want to be, if not friends, good neighbors. Their dog may be a pain but if their house was on fire, we would be there to help put it out, even if they hadn’t cooperated about it. That’s what neighbors do.

I have another neighbor who wants to change his fence line to take in part of our brook so his goats will be able to reach it for water. It is unfortunately, the best part of the brook and we will need the access in the near future to water our own stock. We aren’t willing to give up this crucial piece of our land. We plan to say that, while we appreciate his delimna, we can’t help him out.

Living in the splintered world of the modern culture has deprived a lot of us of the skills required when you live in each other’s pockets. If you get up, drive to work, return home late, then sit inside watching television or surfing the net, you may well go weeks without seeing your neighbors. When people are fenced into identicle little pods or when homeowner’s associations lay out all of the rules, there is no place for figuring out how to live together. But I think the lack of conflict also leads to a lack of depth. You don’t really know someone outside of the widow dressing. What kind of car they drive may be all you have to judge a person by. When you see a person in conflict or stress, you find out who they really are. Kind or mean, rigid or flexible, cooperative or isolationist, stuff you need to know. If you want to see who someone is on the inside, go to a rancorous town meeting. You’ll find out in a hurry. This doesn’t mean that you  a perswriteon off if they don’t behave well. It just means you will know who you are dealing with.

I am a bit of a people pleaser and I hate it when I can’t be helpful. But as we transition to a more local economy, learning when to say no and how to do it nicely will be another of those lost skills we will need to revive.